Happy holidays! I hope everyone’s doing great and gearing up for an amazing 2020. I for one can’t wait to dive head first into a new decade given all of the excitement and momentum surrounding our industry. 2020 is a Census year, and Latinx in the U.S. are projected to exceed 62 million people, or approximately 20% of the total population in America (+23% vs. the 2010). But you probably already knew that, right? So as we turn the page on the ’10s and head into the ‘20s, I thought it was a good time to reflect on a few important trends, phrases, fads and misnomers about our industry together and share some of my personal thoughts and vision for 2020. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions (er, countdowns), let’s toss out the old, bring in the new and open our minds to what’s possible in descending order from 10 to 1, shall we?
10.) Adios “Total Market,” It’s Been Swell. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who hosts a podcast called #TotalMarketTalk, and has therefore been perceived by some as being pro-Total Market. On the contrary, I created the podcast (and the New Generation Latino Consortium nearly 20 years ago) to lead a thoughtful discourse around a subject that IMHO had the potential to do more harm than good if not properly managed and controlled by our industry. I’ve always been of the opinion that if we don’t control our own narrative, then the narrative will ultimately control us. If history has taught us one thing it is that, but I digress. So much has been said, written and researched about “Total Market,” and there’s no need to rehash it all. There are some who have gotten it right, but most have not. When it comes to Latinx marketing, it’s hard enough to get our “fair share” without trying to be overly clever with catchphrases like “Total Market.” It was never intended to mean “less is more” or “be all things to all people,” but in a world where everyone is looking to be more “effective and efficient,” “Total Market” has become more of an escape hatch vs. a thoughtful, nuanced approach to Latinx (and multicultural) marketing as it was intended. No finger pointing, but it is time to say bu-bye to “Total Market” in 2020. If you’re wondering whether my #TotalMarketTalk podcast will still be a thing next year, the answer is yes. As much as I’d like to believe the entire marketing industry is reading this letter and taking heed, my guess is there’s still work to be done. If not us, then who?
9.) D&I And Latinx Marketing Aren’t The Same. I’ll start by saying that the points I’m about to make are in no way intended to diminish the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives here in the U.S. We’ve got some amazing people and organizations that are behind the D&I movement. We’re seeing a noticeable uptick in Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) positions within major Fortune 500 companies. The work they’re doing is an essential component to moving the needle across all “multicultural” segments (more on why “multicultural” is in quotes below, but stay with me for a sec). However, even some CDOs admit that it’s been an uphill battle to change cultures and mindsets within large corporations in spite of best intentions. It’s a larger conversation that merits its own discourse. To that end, Isaac Mizrahi (Co-President and COO of ALMA), recently wrote a Forbes piece entitled ‘Diversity and Inclusion and Multicultural Marketing Are Not The Same’ emphasizing the importance of not conflating D&I with multicultural marketing as a whole. He states, “D&I may be competing, or worse, replacing existing multicultural marketing programs, at least from a resource allocation perspective.” He goes on to say “D&I efforts are not truly complete without a multicultural marketing strategy.” To this I say…EXACTLY! With respect to our market, think about the layers of confusion and dilution that result from overlaying, “Total Market” on top of “D&I” on top of “Multicultural” as if it’s all one thing, and then expecting CMOs to allocate Latinx our fair share. Which brings me to my next point…
8.) Multicultural And Latinx Marketing Aren’t The Same. The same caveats as above apply here. There are an incredible number of talented people working to advance the “multicultural” marketplace advocating for it as a business imperative vs. a cause. The “multicultural” business case heading into 2020 is irrefutable, and no longer up for debate. However, if the term “multicultural” is not carefully managed we again run the risk of homogenizing the Latinx story and/or diluting it as a segment (of the U.S.) within a segment (of Total Market) within a segment (of Multicultural) within a segment (of D&I) within a riddle. The term “multicultural” primarily includes, but is not limited to Latinx, African-American, Asian-American, LGBTQ+ and the disabled community. Of course we all agree that each of these segments merit a team of experts dedicated to managing their fair share of marketing budgets based on real business growth metrics. For that reason, it’s extra important when using the term “multicultural” to avoid inadvertently conflating all of the segments as if they’re one. Sounds super obvious, but to many it is not. The proverbial “multicultural box” is NOT checked until each segment is methodically addressed and supported by budgets matching the business opportunity each represents.
7.) Culture Is King, Queen And Everything In Between. About two years ago the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) rebranded itself the Culture Marketing Council (CMC). They did so to create a coalition across marketing disciplines, but also to incorporate a broader definition of culture that includes language, lifestyle and other nuanced behaviors. It was a smart move, and one that re-set the table for the future for the organization and the Latinx marketing industry at large. Similarly, the ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) recently introduced the Cultural Impact Insights Measure (CIMM), a breakthrough new study and marketing tool that proves the incremental value of genuinely reflecting culture in marketing creative to form deeper consumer-brand connections. Full disclosure, NGL is a proud member of both organizations. To that end, NGL has been saying for the better part of the past 20 years that language is just one of many vertical tactics through which to reach today’s Latinx consumer. Culture, on the other hand, is more horizontal and encompasses the social behavior and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities and habits of the individuals in these groups. As such, the richness of Latinx culture provides a plethora of ways through which to connect. Sometimes Spanish is involved, other times not. If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, I wrote a 5,000+ word manifesto of sorts entitled ‘Wake Up And Smell The Cafecito, The Despacito And The Total U.S. Hispanic Market’ which supports these notions. You can also listen to a narrated version as a #TotalMarketTalk podcast if that’s your preference.
6.) Be Different. Adopt A 300% Latinx Approach. Marketers have been studying the Latinx marketplace for decades and have made significant investments attempting to tap into the dual identity of the so-called “200%” segment. These consumers see themselves as both 100% American and 100% Latinx. But let’s be honest, biculturalism and this idea of Latinx duality has always been a reality in America – think Desi Arnaz, Rita Moreno, Cheech Marin, John Leguizamo and so many others. It didn’t just emerge with millennials and Gen Zers, like Cardi B or Becky G.
My company, NGL Collective, practices a three-pronged approach that goes deeper – a 300% approach. A more nuanced “sum of the parts” strategy addressing the Latinx totality, leveraging all of the digital tools and technology available today. Each step of NGL’s in-language, in-culture and in-context “300%” approach serves a purpose, and avoids marginalization of any one Latinx segment. After all, the power of the Latinx market is driven by the power of its totality, not just English-speakers, Spanish-speakers or the “youth sector” as some would lead you to believe. It’s about ALL of it. Our story has always been about the sum of the parts, the 23 different nationalities that make up the Latinx population, the east and the west, the north and the south, the NGLs, the Millennials the Gen-Zr’s and everything in between. ALL of these critical pieces ladder up to a unique, beautiful and supremely powerful Latinx marketplace that spends upwards of $2 trillion per year. That’s power and clout, folks. Let’s use it. Let’s embrace it, let’s own our narrative and carry it into the future the way we know how to as an industry. If we change our story, we change our outcome I’m 300% sure of it. If you’re interested in reading my full piece on this subject, CLICK HERE.
5.) Digital Is Growing. Broadcast Is Declining. Still…Do Both. It’s no secret that declining TV ratings combined with the proliferation of viewing options and shrinking Pay TV subscriber bases has yielded a material loss of “traditional TV viewing” households. Although the Latinx TV market is declining at a slower pace, the message is clear regardless of the audience – where attention shifts, ad dollars follow. In fact, digital ad revenue is expected to materially outpace traditional TV in 2019, with TV declining by 2.2% to $70.83 billion and digital growing by 19% to $129.34 billion according to eMarketer forecasts.
What’s interesting, however, is that declines in viewing in some instances have actually helped TV networks by building demand since advertisers have to buy more commercial time to meet their reach goals. High demand helps sustain pricing and so on. The same is certainly true for Spanish-language TV, which still commands the lion’s share of ad dollars in the Latinx market.
So what’s my point? In the General Market the ad spend ratio is nearly 2 to 1 in favor of digital (and growing). In the Latinx market, that ratio is more or less inverted according the Ad Age’s Hispanic Fact Pack. Television will remain the dominant medium in our market for the foreseeable future, but it absolutely MUST be augmented by a robust digital plan to extend reach, create efficiencies and allow for deeper targeting and segmentation. As the Latinx ad spend continues to grow, so will the percentage of dollars allocated to digital over time. It’s anyone’s guess when the ratio will flip, but in the meantime if all you’re doing to target Latinx in the U.S. is Spanish-language television, it’s time to expand your marketing palate in 2020. This is especially true if you’re looking to connect in-culture and in-context following NGL’s 300% approach that is rooted in digital.
4.) Choose AI And DIDs Over Crumbling Cookies. In the “Big Data” age we’re in, it can be overwhelming for marketers seeking ways to deliver more effective and efficient results given all of the jargon and options available. In the beginning, cookies (ie. – anonymous IDs tied to desktop browsers enabling audience targeting, data trading, measurement, attribution and frequency capping) were the backbone of the digital data eco-system. However, with smartphones taking over our formerly desktop-centric world, cookies are no longer the gold standard by a long shot. Coupled with the new cookie regulations and major browsers blocking third party ad tech, the cookie is effectively crumbling in front of us. The Latinx market is certainly not immune. Cookie sets are largely built around whether a consumer has visited a Spanish-language site and/or has their browser set to Spanish. Think about how limiting that is with language being but a tactic, and the importance of engaging Latinx in-culture and in-context as well. There’s more to the data game than re-targeting people who have visited Spanish-language outlets.
The good news is that better and more sophisticated approaches are available including Device IDs (DIDs) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In the Latinx space, only NGL offers BOTH solutions. Using DIDs collected via smartphone and tablet, an advertiser can track individual devices, group users into cohorts, and create a much clearer picture of how best to communicate down to location and time. DIDs also allow advertisers to maintain a longer lasting connection to consumers and test particular cohorts for creative ad optimization, be it on site or in-app. Cookies simply don’t compare, and definitely don’t lend themselves to the more nuanced 300% approach that NGL employs when targeting Latinx.
Of the three “Big Data” plays in digital marketing, the most exciting and compelling IMHO, is AI and machine-based adaptive learning. Simply put, AI is all about leveraging technology to improve the customer journey while increasing engagement and ROI through the elimination of human error and guesswork. The “AI Algorithm” that people like to refer to has effectively found it’s way into many aspects of our lives, and it’s only getting smarter with time.
NGL employs a proprietary social AI tool called ATHENA combining advanced machine learning, data analytics and automation to deliver superior results when it comes to Latinx marketing efforts across social. Moreover, ATHENA reduces human effort by 95%, drives more engagement at scale and dramatically lowers the cost of customer acquisition vs. more conventional approaches. That’s a fancy way of saying that no one is better equipped in the Latinx market to help advertisers map an end-to-end social strategy to drive purchase intent and/or engagement leveraging AI than NGL.
The Internet is like a gigantic behavioral science laboratory with far too many data sets for humans alone to analyze and effectively navigate. When we overlay the complexities of Latinx marketing it becomes even trickier. Choose your partners well, and make sure they’re equipped to deliver beyond crumbling cookie data. A sound Latinx data strategy must also include DIDs and AI in order to be at its most effective and efficient.
3.) Seek Out Human Experts. As someone who has spent my entire professional life in the Latinx media, marketing and entertainment space, I take a lot of pride in what we’ve accomplished as an industry. Those who know me, know that I didn’t get into this business because of the now famous “Latin explosion” of the ‘90’s or the promise of making a buck. In fact, I started as an admin assistant at one of the first Hispanic ad agencies, SiboneyUSA, back in (the day). I did it to connect with my heritage, my passion for the culture, the language, the traditions, the community and for the many amazing people and mentors whom I’ve fought alongside to build this industry into what it is today. I still love what I do, or I couldn’t have gotten out of bed all of these years to do it. I have many peers who work in this market, and are at the top of their games with years, if not decades, of expertise to offer. Talented people who will continue to carry the torch in 2020 and beyond.
As our industry continues to evolve and become more machine-driven, let’s not overlook the human beings (from OGs to Newbies) who remain critical to the success of any great Latinx marketing program. I’m talking about the creatives, the media buyers and planners, the producers, the researchers, the account people and everyone in between who are experts at what they do, and who deeply care about this industry and its future. If you’re an advertiser who has yet to join the party, I highly recommend the aforementioned CMC and AIMM organizations as key resources. Lots of great human beings are behind both, and I trust you’ll benefit immensely from reaching out to them.
2.) The Latin Music Roadmap Is Real. At the turn of this year on January 4, 2019, an amazing headline appeared in my LinkedIn feed that read ‘Latin Music Is Now More Popular Than Country & EDM In America.’ Let that sink in for a minute, and then think about all of the massive mainstream “North American” and Latin artist collaborations such as Madonna and Maluma, Drake and Bad Bunny, Beyonce and J. Balvin, and of course, Justin Bieber and Luis Fonsi on ‘Despacito’ and the BILLIONS of views they’ve garnered. Latin music is everywhere, and whether listeners understand the lyrics or not, seemingly has no bearing on its global popularity. It’s about the vibe, the culture, the rhythms and the amazing Latin artists whose talent and allure complete the package. Put a different way, it’s about language, culture and context working together in unison powered by digital. It’s the perfect 300% approach in action. You see how I slipped that in there again?
The ease through which music can now be distributed and discovered has created a truly global landscape, and Latin music’s massive popularity is due in no small part to this new digital eco-system. According to YouTube’s forthcoming most viewed music videos of 2019 report, 7 out of the top 10 spots belong to Latinx artists such as Daddy Yankee, Rosalía, J. Balvin and others. The Latinx music roadmap for success is real, and one that we in the advertising and marketing space should duly note and mimic. How exactly does the roadmap work you ask? Let’s take a 300% NGL deep dive look before dropping the mic on this subject. More music puns to follow.
Language: Latin music means Spanish. Music fans around the world love the sound of it, and are more than happy to include it in their favorite playlists. In a world where media and entertainment is becoming more and more addressable, let’s stop over-thinking the whole “language debate,” and just let the music and the algorithm do the talking. After all, “algo-rithms” incorporate both Spanish and rhythms, so I rest my case. Wow, that wasn’t just a pun. It was a BIG Pun. Sorry, too easy. 😉
Culture: A big part of what sells Latin music is Latin culture. Similar to hip-hop whose predominant listener base is White, Latin music is for everyone and so is Latin culture. In other words, let’s own the fact that Latin culture is GLOBAL, and not let concerns over “alienating core (aka White) customers” hold us back from leading with Latinx themes in mainstream marketing and advertising.
Context: Latin music is clearly embedded into mainstream culture both here in the U.S. and around the world. The context in which Latin music now appears isn’t limited to environments that are “Spanish-dominant” or even “Latinx-centric.” Similarly, Latinx consumers live in between languages and cultures and don’t always need to be reached in Latinx endemic environments to be effectively engaged through culturally-relevant messaging. Think ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ on Broadcast TV (not niche Cable) speaking to a mass audience, yet resonating on a deeper level with people of color and LGBTQ+ audiences given its marvelously diverse cast. On a musical note, think J.Lo and Shakira at the upcoming Super Bowl Halftime Show in front of a global audience, and what that performance will mean to Latinx here in the U.S. and around the world.
1.) Latinx Represent In 2020. As we countdown to the end of another decade, I’m personally filled with optimism and gratitude for the amazing ride its been so far, and the future ahead for our industry. For me 2020 will mark an important milestone in my personal and professional life. Some of you already know that I’m becoming a Spanish citizen. Living in Spain is what helped me become fluent in the language, fueled my interest in rediscovering my heritage (Sephardic on my mom’s side), drove me to pursue a career in Latinx marketing and frankly changed the entire trajectory of my life. Case in point, I’m also married to a beautiful Puerto Rican woman with whom I’ve raised two incredible “Jew-tino” (now “Jew-tinx”) children who we like to say are “Spanglish-dominant.”
In many ways I feel a stronger connection to Latinx culture than the one in which I was raised. Experiencing all of this as an outsider of sorts has also made me a bit of a hybrid when it comes to my Latinx identity. Let’s face it, having Spanish heritage and leading a bilingual and bicultural life doesn’t exactly fit squarely into the box that marketers have called everything from U.S. Hispanic, to Latino, and now Latinx. Or does it? Most of my Latinx friends, family and colleagues actually prefer to self-identify as their heritage (Puerto Rican, Mexican, Colombian, etc.) vs. being grouped together under one monolithic ethnicity. Funny enough, 10 years ago at almost this exact time I wrote a piece about this phenomenon called ‘New Generation Latinos — It’s All About The Numbers In 2011,’ which drills down further on this very subject.
Regardless of how, why or even if you self-identify as Latinx, my hope and intention for 2020 is that we find a way to come together to leverage our collective power, strength and clout as an industry. It’s a Census year, an election year and the beginning of a new decade. We need to show up, speak up and shine a bright positive light on the community that has given us the opportunity to earn our livings and make a difference.
I’ll end with a quote from my friend and business partner, John Leguizamo, who articulated it best when he said, “America may not realize it yet, but Latin prototypes are being created right now, and not just by me. They are these mambo kings and salsa queens, Aztec lords and Inca princesses, every Hernandez and Fernandez, whom this country will one day come to understand and respect.”
#Truth #Verdad #JohnnyLegz
Here’s to a great 2020 and another amazing decade of Latinx marketing.